Family-Centered Theory of Change

A Conceptual Framework for Improving Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate STEM Courses 


  • Juan Salinas The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Parwinder Grewal
  • Jose Gutierrez
  • Nicolas Pereyra
  • Dagoberto Ramirez
  • Elizabeth Salinas
  • Griselda Salinas
  • Virginia Santana
  • Can Saygin



family-centered, theory of change, pedagogy, institutional transformation, HSIs, STEM Education, community partnership


Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) are often characterized as Hispanic enrolling (rather than serving) that practice deficit-based systems that continue to marginalize Hispanics and other underrepresented students, especially in STEM fields.  Extant research on HSIs stresses the importance of investigations into the value of grassroots advocacy groups as external influencers of institutional servingness through deeper engagement with the Hispanic community. Using a novel Family-Centered Theory of Change (FCTC) that addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion, we integrated concepts of intersectionality and servingness into a Family Integrated Education Serving and Transforming Academia (FIESTA) framework. We investigated the potential transformational impact of FIESTA on students, families, faculty, and administrators at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), an institution with over 90 % Hispanic population. Preliminary findings shed light on how the FIESTA framework can help reshape an HSI’s identity from “Hispanic enrolling” to a true Hispanic-Serving Institution through Family-Centered Pedagogy. The Family-Centered Pedagogy was defined as the enrichment of the learning experience in which students complement their own instruction by drawing from the experience and ancestral knowledge of their families, supported by the FCTC developed by AVE Frontera, our community partner.​ 


Allsup, C. (1982a). Land of the free, home of the brave. In The American G.I. Forum: Origins and evolution [monograph]. Austin: University of Texas, Center for Mexican American Studies.

Allsup, C. (1982b). Welcome home. In The American G.I. Forum: Origins and evolution [monograph]. Austin: University of Texas, Center for Mexican American Studies.

American Council on Education (1996). Transnational dialogues: Conversations between U.S. college and university CEOs and their counterparts abroad. Washington, DC: Publications TD.

Barnes, M., & Schmitz, P. (2016). Community engagement matters (now more than ever). Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from

Blanton, C. (2007). The strange career of bilingual education in Texas, 1836-1981. College Station, TX: A&M University Press.

Carrigan, W. D., & Webb, C. (2013). Forgotten dead: Mob violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848 – 1928. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

DeNicolo, C. P., González, M., Morales, S., & Romani, L. (2015). Teaching through testimonio: Accessing community cultural wealth in school. Journal of Latinos and Education, 14(4), 228-243.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2011). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.

Dunst, C. J. (2002) Family-centered practices: Birth through high school. The Journal of Special Education, 36(3), 139-147.

Excelencia in Education. (2022). Growing what Works Database. Retrieved from

Freire, P. (1970). Excerpt from pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Routledge.

Galdeano, E. C., Flores, A. R., & Moder, J. (2012). The Hispanic association of colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions: Partners in the advancement of Hispanic higher education. Journal of Latinos & Education, 11(3), 157-162.

Gandara, P., Moran, R., & García, E. (2004). Legacy of Brown: Lau and language policy in the United States. Review of Research in Education, 28, 27-46.

Garcia, G. A., Nuñez A. M., & Sansone, V. A. (2019). Toward a multidimensional conceptual framework for understanding “servingness” in Hispanic-serving institutions: A synthesis of the research. Review of Educational Research, 89(5), 745-784.

Guajardo, F., Guajardo, M. (2013). The power of plática. Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning. 13(1), 59-164.

Guajardo, M. & Guajardo, F. (2004). The impact of Brown on the brown of south Texas: A micro political perspective on the education of Mexican Americans in a rural south Texas community. American Educational Research Journal, 41(3), 501-526.

Guajardo, M., Guajardo, F., Janson, C., Militello, M. (2016). Reframing Community Partnerships in Education: Uniting the Power of Place and Wisdom of People. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475; 74 S. Ct. 667; 98 L. Ed. 866 (1954). U.S. LEXIS 2128. Retrieved from

Hurtado, S. (2015). The transformative paradigm: Principles and challenges. In A. Aleman, B.P. Pusser, & E. Bensimon. (Eds.) Critical approaches to the study of higher education. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.

Ladson-Billings, Gloria. (1995). Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 465-491.

MacDonald, V. M., Botti, J. M., & Clarck, L. H. (2007). From visibility to autonomy: Latinos and higher education in the U.S., 1965-2005. Harvard Educational Review, 77(4), 474-504.

Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & González, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching. Theory in Practice, 31(2), 132-140.

Ortegon, R. R. (2013). LULAC v. Richards: The class action lawsuit that prompted the south Texas border initiative and enhanced access to higher education for Mexican Americans living along the south Texas border (Order No. 3604989). [Doctoral dissertation, Northeastern University). ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Ovando, C. (2003). Bilingual education in the United States: Historical and current issues. Bilingual Research Journal, 27(1), 1-24.

Richards v. LULAC, 868 S.W.2d 306 (1993). Tex. LEXIS 120. Retrieved from

Rodriguez v. San Antonio ISD, 337 F. Supp. 280 (1971). U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10250. Retrieved from

Salinas, G., & Lopez, J. (2021). A vehicle of engagement for quality education and student success: La frontera program for immigrant families and students. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Retrieved from

Salinas, J., Jr. (2018). Higher education social responsibility: An empirical analysis and assessment of a Hispanic-serving institution’s commitment to community-engaged scholarship, student integration and sense of belonging (Order No. 10976893). [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

Santiago, D. A. (2006). Inventing Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs): The basics. Excelencia in Education. Retrieved from

Santiago, D. A. (2012). Public policy and Hispanic-serving institutions: From invention to accountability. Journal of Latinos and Education, 11(3), 163-167. doi: 10.1080/15348431.2012.686367

Satterfield, J., & Rincones, R. D. (2008). An evolving curriculum: The technical core of Hispanic-serving institutions in the state of Texas. College Quarterly, 11(4), 1-19.

Serna v. Portales, 499 F.2d 1147 (1974). U.S. App. LEXIS 7619. Retrieved from

Valencia, R. (2000). Inequalities and the schooling of minority students in Texas: Historical and contemporary condition. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 22(4), 445-459.

Yarsinske, A. W. (2004). All for one and one for all: A celebration of 75 years of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Donning Company Publishers.

Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose Culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race, Ethnicity, and Education, 8 (1), 69-91.